If islands could talk, then Power Island would speak loudly of legends. This 200-acre island that sits north of Traverse City on West Grand Traverse Bay is currently owned by Grand Traverse County. It is a playground for swimming, hiking, boating, or just relaxing.
But there is a deep history here. One that includes former presidents, industrial giants, and ghosts.
Power Island has gone by many names, some are official names, and some are nicknames. In recorded history it’s been known as Island #10, Eagle Island, Hog Island, Round Island, Bowers Island, Marion Island, Ford Island, Rennie Island and is currently known as Power Island.
There are ghostly tales from this island that include a mysterious white man known to haunt campers. And there are other tales that one owner, Henry Ford would welcome guests that included three former U.S. Presidents along with auto industry friends such as the Dodge Brothers, Ransom Olds, Harvey Firestone, and Thomas Edison. Imagine these friends, who were giants of industry, sitting around the campfire sharing stories and ideas. Then there are tales of one guest, baseball legend Babe Ruth, who was kicked off the island because tea-totaling Henry Ford didn’t agree with the drinking that Babe brought to the island.
While Native Americans were first to inhabit the island they camped in a small cove on the western side of the island. The first white man settled on the island in 1850, McKinley Wilson harvested timber and planted corn.
When the water levels are low Power Island is connected to nearby Basset Island with an isthmus. In the early 1900s, a two-story dance pavilion was built on this tiny island, and steamships would bring people ready to party well into the night.
Today, Power Island is the largest undeveloped island on the Great Lakes. Grand Traverse County has a caretaker who lives on the island and watches over it. The island has ten primitive campsites, a boat dock, picnic area and is identified as a Quiet Nature Preserve. On any warm, summer day the island will be surrounded by boaters who relish the island as their sanctuary away from the summer heat and the stress of their daily lives.